Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Royal Marines Successfully Navigate North-West Passage by Open Boat

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Royal Marines Successfully Navigate North-West Passage by Open Boat

A Royal Marines duo have successfully navigated the central section of the Arctic's notorious North-West passage, in a 17 foot open boat.
Lieutenant Colonel Kevin Oliver (42) and Major Tony Lancashire (36) have taken 42 days to sail and row their 17-foot boat Arctic Mariner 1,400 miles through Canada's Northern provinces. They started from Inuvik, on the Beaufort Sea on July 24, travelled east and arrived safely in Gjoa Haven on King William Island at the weekend.

A year in the planning, the duo's expedition was conceived to raise awareness of the charity 'Toe in the Water' for which they have raised in excess of £10K. The charity is dedicated to inspiring injured servicemen and women to move beyond their disability through competitive sailing - an extension of Headley Court's rehabilitation programme. Both of them are veterans of Iraq and Northern Ireland and Tony has also served in Afghanistan. Kevin will be deploying to Afghanistan on his return from the Arctic.

The adventurers used the latest Canadian ice charts to weave their way through the hostile  Arctic seas and landscape, braving freezing storms, pack ice, charging bears and curious whales. With typical Royal Marine sang froid, Lieutenant Colonel Kevin Oliver said, "This has not been all plain sailing, we have had 90% more ice than the seasonal norm and as a consequence have had to drag the boat across ice as well as row and sail it. The weather and local wild life has provided us with a number of heart stopping moments which rank among the most memorable of the trip, all of which was topped off by the hospitality of the people we met. A great adventure!"

At the successful conclusion of the voyage, Tony Lancashire said, "Every one of the 42 days has offered a unique experience, from the Arctic landscape and wildlife to the incredibly hospitable people that we have met in the northern communities.

Patron of the expedition, Major General Garry Robison (Commandant General Royal Marines), praised their achievement today:

"I have enormous admiration for what Kev Oliver and Tony Lancashire have accomplished. Not only have they demonstrated outstanding qualities of determination, fortitude and cheerfulness in the face of adversity, the money they have raised for the charity Toe In The Water will directly benefit and support servicemen and women seriously injured in the cause of their duty. The Royal Navy and Royal Marines should be justifiably proud of what they have achieved."

The epitome of Royal Marine resourcefulness, Kevin and Oliver have succeeded where others have failed using a sailing and rowing 'cruiser' designed and built in Nova Scotia; called a Norseboat, the versatile craft was specially reinforced to cope with ice laden with a range of survival equipment and stores of freeze-dried food. It remained just light enough for Kevin and Tony to haul her onto the ice when floes threatened to crush her and to travel significant distances across the ice to reach open water.

For centuries mariners and explorers have dreamt of a Northwest Passage which would link the Atlantic with the Pacific Ocean – and many have perished in the attempt to get through. Among the most notable was the voyage in 1847 by Captain Sir John Franklin during which he and the crews of HM Ships Erebus and Terror were lost without trace.

The expedition titled 'Arctic Mariner' has its own web site and Kevin and Tony managed to keep a blog running and post images through-out the voyage (www.arcticmariner.org).

Notes to Editors:

1. Background

Lieutenant Colonel Kevin Oliver joined the Royal Marines in 1989 and is a mountain and Arctic specialist. He has served in Iraq and Northern Ireland. He is a certified sailing yacht skipper and on one expedition floated down the Amazon on a raft he built from balsa wood. He lives in Devon with his wife and two children.

Major Tony Lancashire has been a member of the Corps for 14 years and is a small boat operations specialist who has served in Afghanistan, Iraq, Sierra Leone and Northern Ireland. He is an experienced sailor and has spent time in Arctic Canada and Norway as well as the jungles of West Africa and the Far East. Tony also lives in Devon. His partner Lara, a commando doctor also serving in the Armed Forces, is an accomplished mountaineer, summiting Makalu in the Himalayas last year.

The North West Passage is a sea route through the Arctic Ocean, along the northern coast of North America via waterways in the Canadian Arctic, connecting the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. It was first successfully navigated by Roald Amundsen in 1906, taking three years in a steel-hulled seal-hunting vessel. Success depends very much on the northward retreat of sea ice during the summer and while recent trends suggested favourable conditions, 2009 proved especially challenging with the worst ice in the Amundsen Gulf for a decade.

2. Footage and Imagery

High resolutions stills of the expedition can be downloaded from the Latest Packages section of the Defence News Imagery website (www.dni.mod.uk). For help on how to use DNI, please contact the MOD Press Office Bureau on 0207 218 7907. Moving pictures will be available later this week.

3. Opportunity to speak with the participants

There will be an opportunity to speak with Kevin Oliver and Tony Lancashire direct from their Arctic base camp this afternoon (Tuesday). Journalists wishing to speak with the team should contact James Gater at Fleet Media on 02392 625249 to arrange bids.

NDS Enquiries
Phone: For enquiries please contact the above department

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